Guide to Google ranking factors – Part 4: content freshness

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Last week we published the third instalment of our complete guide to Google ranking factors.

It concentrated on the rather nebulous term ‘quality content’ and the practical signals you can provide Google to prove the text on your webpage is worthwhile.

This week we continue diving into on-page content factors, with content freshness.

Freshness

How recently your webpage was published is a ranking signal. However different searches have different freshness needs. (Source: Google Inside search post)

Google checks content for freshness by monitoring the following types of searches…

  • Recent events or hot topics: Anything that begins trending on the web, that searchers want to find the latest information on immediately.
  • Regularly recurring events: These are events that take place on a regular basis, such as annual conferences or presidential elections. Without a specific qualifier, you probably expect to see information on the most recent event, and not one from years ago.
  • Frequent updates: These are searches for information that changes often, but isn’t a recent or regularly occurring event. These tend to be searches for frequently updated tech products or car brands.

Google will then check for spikes around search volume, whether news publishers and blogs have begun writing about the subject as well as social media mentions.

So if your content manages to ride the crest of the above, you may see a rankings boost for being first on the scene, or by regularly updating your content to remain fresh.

Moz recently looked at whether content freshness is a factor and went into further detail on all the possible ways Google determines content freshness. The following insights come from Moz’s research by Cyrus Shepard, so click on the link for more information.

1) Freshness by inception date

A web page can be given an immediate freshness score based on its publication date, which decays over time as the content becomes older.

2) Regular updates to content

Google scores ‘fresh content’ that’s updated regularly in a different way to a news article that doesn’t change.

3) Changes to a webpage’s core content matters more than other areas

Changes made in the main body of the article are far more important than other areas, such as Javascript, comments, navigation, etc.

4) How often the content changes

Content that changes more often is scored differently than content that only changes every few years.

5) New page creation

Websites or blogs that publish new webpages more frequently will earn a higher freshness score than those who only publish once in a while.

6) Rate of new link growth may signal freshness

If a webpage sees has an increase in the number of external sites linking to it, this could be seen as a sign of relevance to Google.

7) Links from sites rated ‘fresh’ will pass freshness on to you

Links from sites determined to have a high freshness score can raise your own freshness level.

8) Traffic and engagement metrics may signal freshness

Standard engagement behaviours on SERP results, such as click-throughs and time on page, can be an indicator of freshness and relevance.

9) Changes in anchor text pointing towards your site may devalue older links

If your website or webpage suddenly or gradually changes focus over time (say from a carpentry guide to a best practice SEO guide – sounds unlikely, but you never know), then anchor text pointing to you will likely change in line with the different topic.

Google may then decide that your page has changed so much that the old anchor text is no longer fresh and devalue those older links.

10) Older is often better

The newest result isn’t always the best. For older, less news-worthy topics, an in-depth, authoritative result that’s been around a long while may rank highest.

Google News

11) Of course you can ensure that Google recognises that your content is fresh, and may immediately place you on the first SERP in its News section (or Top Stories on mobile), if you have successfully submitted your site to Google News.

google news

You can check the guidelines for Google News submission here.

Other instalments in our Google ranking factor guide:

Part 7: Site-level signals
Part 6: trust signals, authority and expertise.
Part 5: duplicate content and syndication.
Part 3: quality content.
Part 2: keyword relevancy, frequency and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
Part 1: on-page signals such as title tags, H1 tags and meta descriptions.

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